The 15 Minute Rule

Mark Rampolla Issue 13 - Sept/Oct 2014, Operations Leave a Comment

Mark Rampolla, CEO of ZICO Beverages, explains how his daughters’ 15 minute rule has taught him how to become better business manager.

Mark in coconut pile 3By Mark Rampolla

By most measures, I am a relatively productive and accomplished person. I did well in school; have two master’s degrees; have traveled to more than 50 countries, conducted business in 30 and lived in four. I ran an $80-million Latin American division for a major multinational company, launched and built ZICO Coconut Water into a brand worth hundreds of millions, and sold it to The Coca Cola Co.

Along the way, I learned a few languages, stayed healthy and active, and have cherished many friends, a great family, a wonderful marriage and two delightful daughters. But there’s one thing I have yet to accomplish: play an instrument.

I’ve tried. I took piano lessons as a child. Tried the trumpet as a pre-teen. I fiddled with the guitar while in the Peace Corps. For seven years now, I’ve tried on and off to learn piano alongside my daughters. They are now 13 and 11, and while I’m still playing “Chopsticks,” they are performing 20-minute Bach concertos at recitals in front of 30 people.

D x T = A

I am proud and happy to see what they have accomplished, but I am also in awe, and frankly a little jealous. How did they become so good? Neither of them are prodigies, nor will they be invited to play at Carnegie Hall any time soon. They are unlikely to have careers in music or get us out of paying college tuition. But they are good.

Yes, kids learn more easily than adults. Our girls also have natural talent with musicians on both sides of the family, and they are both smart. Yet none of that explains why they are good as much as the simple lesson that my daughters, perhaps unknowingly, have practiced for seven years: Discipline x Time = Accomplishment.

For seven years, they have remained disciplined about attending a one-hour lesson each week and 15 minutes of practice each day. It sounds like an infomercial, but it’s true. Sometimes they play a little more before a recital. Sometime they practice less or not at all, and they make it up. They take breaks on vacation. Sometimes they play at 10 pm. Sometimes right before school.

Like most kids, they’re busy. Ciara trains 20 hours per week as a competitive gymnast. Lexi is in club soccer and a budding artist. But almost without fail, they have played 15 minutes a day, every day for seven years.

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… & Other Takeaways

Of course, we as parents played an active role in this, my wife Maura especially. She’ll set the lesson times and shuttle them back and forth. In the early days, we had to remind them constantly to play, and occasionally we still do. Beyond that, we haven’t been of much help since they graduated from the Baby Mozart books. But there are some lessons I’ve garnered from this experience that have certainly helped me:

Make a choice. We let the girls know at a very young age that they had to play an instrument, but gave them the choice. Choosing piano helped to cement their commitment to it.

Make it non-negotiable. Our girls have tried to quit a few times over the years and have heard me say too many times, “I’m sorry girls, but I’ve never met anyone who said, ‘I’m glad my parents let me quit playing piano,’ so you’re not quitting.”

Consult a pro. There is nothing like a great teacher. The girls have had a few, but over the last five years they have studied with a wonderful teacher named Herbert Waltl. Herbert has made piano fun, challenging and rewarding. In turn, our girls have soared.

Make your commitment public. The girls hate to perform in public, but in our household recitals are not optional. We find recitals force the girls to practice more and improve knowing one looms ahead.

Reward yourself. A small treat like ice cream follows the weekly practice, and we arrange parties or travel to coincide after every recital.

Though I have not yet successfully applied these lessons to artistic pursuits, I have in my personal and business lives. Maura and I were very careful in our choice of ZICO as a business to launch. The fact that it was well aligned with our values and passions allowed us to stick with it for a decade.

While running ZICO, individual and group performance reviews were non-negotiable, Good, bad or ugly, we always reviewed results at least monthly. I have had coaches, advisors, mentors and psychologists that have helped me recognize my strengths and weaknesses and hone my game.

After realizing the 15-minute rule, I implemented a 10:07 am call for the ZICO management team every weekday from anywhere in the world so we could stay connected and guide the business. I also began to meditate for at least 10 minutes every day.

Now it is time to apply this to the arts. So here’s my public commitment: I will learn to play an instrument. Talk to me in seven years. If I follow my girls’ model, I should at least advance beyond “Chopsticks” by then.

Mark Rampolla is Chief Executive Officer of ZICO Beverages. He was featured in Issue No. 1 of Forefront Magazine.

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